India has always been a labour-intensive economy. Post the British rule, India was compelled to enter the industrial era and factories using machines came up everywhere. The economy has since been struggling to find the perfect balance between the emphasis on labour that drives the traditional setup and the factories and technological advancements that headline the urban setup.
This struggle is not just relegated to the higher echelons in the ministry where the national economy is discussed a whole; rather, it is disturbingly visible in the homes of people who are existing hand-to-mouth with no assurance of two square meals a day. The other end of the spectrum in our economy constitutes the people who can afford to order their meals from a high-end restaurant that adds additional taxes on the meal.
Life is difficult for the first group while the second group does not feel the burn in their pocket despite splurging on unnecessary items each day. This disparity highlights not just the Indian population, but is the hallmark of every major economy in the world. Despite the cry for equity throughout the world, governments of nations are unsuccessful in creating this utopia.
Take, for instance, the example of Singapore. The most expensive city in the world, Singapore city has given rise to a lot of struggle for essentials. The poverty has never even been calculated. Singapore has no official standard to measure poverty. Thus, the impoverished living there have had a tough time seeking government intervention to improve their lives.
Such is the condition of the poor all around the world. Since poverty is so widespread throughout the country, it is difficult for the government to provide aid to everybody and come to their service in time. That said, however, the rich have always found their way with the governments. Somehow policies and measures of the government find a way to benefit the rich and not cause them much grievance.
This rich-poor divide is slowly increasing to become a rift that can never be bridged, if not taken care of presently. Before trying to mitigate the problem, we need to evaluate the causes for such a gaping divide.
Causes for the rich-poor divide
1. Unequal distribution of Income- GDP gives a ballpark figure of the average per capita income of the country’s population. The Gross Domestic Product indicates the amount that the country’s population earns on an average. It takes into account the income from all productive goods and services of each sector. If the GDP is higher, the average income earned by each person shall also be high and vice-versa. The problem, however, starts when the distribution of income across the sectors is skewed. The overall GDP might be good, but the reality is that a certain section of the population is facing debilitating poverty.
2. Ineffective Taxation- When the government does not tax the super-rich or equally taxes both the poor and the rich, the poor suffer. The tax-burden then falls on the poor. History is witness to numerous uprisings on account of such indiscriminate taxations and thus, the governments shall behove to strategize how they earn their revenue.
3. Lack of education- The rich have found ingenious ways of earning by implementing their education. The poor lack this tool. Education is the only way out of the clutches of poverty and they need to be made aware of this along with being provided resources to educate themselves.
4. Social Security- The poor struggle to find means of employment as labourers for the whole year. Many-a-times they are unemployed and have no money. It is the state’s responsibility to look after its citizens and provide them a basic sustenance income along with job opportunities.
5. Influx of Migrants- The poor are to work for the rich. The rich only wish to pay the least possible wages and migrants fulfil that need. Migrants come in order to eke a living in a different city or state and provide labour at rates cheaper than the ones existing in the market. As a result, people native to the place lose their opportunities for employment and the migrants who do get the job also earn a meagre amount. Thus, the rich stay rich while the poor get poorer.
6. Attitude of Poverty- The wealthy are driven by their greed and desire to earn more. They devise schemes and methods to multiply their earnings. Nothing is too difficult for them. The poor, on the other hand, have imbibed and internalised the attitude of poverty. They have become used to feeling helpless due to all they have suffered. But this attitude is also becoming a hindrance in their journey towards a better standard of living. They have accepted their condition as their fate etched in stone. This acceptance kills their drive of achieving and succeeding. This attitude has to be removed from the minds of the poor to remove the acceptance of poverty.
Tackling the Divide
Having discussed the reasons for this humongous divide, it is equally important that the measures for combatting it be discussed. People have long suffered due to negligence by the authorities and the elites of a nation. The French Revolution was the result of a famine and lack of basic bread in the people’s pantries even as the Queen Antoinette was decked in the most lavish jewels in her splendid palace.
The Russian Revolution was a revolt on a similar issue, among many others , and the umpteen peasant revolts occurred closer home, in India, before and during the British Raj. People have never accepted this as the bad hand dealt by fate. They have always fought for their sustenance.
However, modern day has brought about a shift in attitudes. Poors consider themselves to be merely unfortunate and are willing to serve the rich so that they may simply fulfil their basic needs.
- Lack of education is the biggest culprit. Despite education being the modern weapon, people are unwilling to send their children to school. They merely wish for their children to help them out in earning a modest living to feed the family. To counter this evil, the Government of India has started the Right to Education Act(2009). This Act has made primary education free and compulsory for children of the age group of 6-14 years. Midday meal scheme was another lure to ensure attendance in schools. The education of a child of the aforementioned age group has also been included in the list of Fundamental Duties In the Constitution. Education is the means to eradicating poverty.
- The taxation scheme is aimed at equality. It aims to ensure just distribution of wealth in the country and reduce the clout of the affluent.
New Income Tax Slabs and Rates for Financial Year: 2019-20
|Income Tax Slab
|Individuals Below The Age Of 60 Years
|Up to `2,50,000
|2,50,001 to 5,00,000
|5,00,001 to 10,00,000
|12,500 + 20% of total income exceeding 5,00,000
|1,12,500 + 30% of total income exceeding 10,00,000
Thus, the rich will be taxed in proportion to their income as a means to reducing the hoarding of money and injecting it into the economy.
- Employment Schemes such as the Antyodaya Yojana(2001) and the extremely popular Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(2005) provide labour-intensive employment to people in backward areas and ensure that they can earn a livelihood even when they cannot get fixed employment.
- The other problem- that of migration, leading to loss of jobs has compelled the government to establish some protective measures for the inhabitants of various states. Each state has reservation for its native inhabitants in schools, colleges and jobs. Thus, the people originally residing in the area will not be at a loss of jobs or opportunities for education. This measure, though encouraging of factionism, is the need of the hour. With the ever-increasing population and burgeoning unemployment, it is important to ensure that people within a geographical unit are not reduced to starvation.
Thus, the government and the Constitution have provided sound measures to ensure that the backward and unfortunate by birth do not remain so. The poor are equally capable as any other affluent citizen of the country and deserve equal opportunities so that they can lead the country to an all-inclusive development.
It is also important for the fortunate to understand their role in the upliftment of the poor and have to ensure that they do not exploit them. The rich cannot usurp the opportunities of the poor and siphon off the resources meant for them. When the entire country participates and empathises with the plight of the less-privileged, only then can this divide lessen. The poor should also be mobilised in this movement of empowerment.
They should not be willing to accept their condition as permanent and fateful. It is important to fight circumstances and ensure that the future does not resemble the past. Poverty isn’t a choice and it can happen to anybody. Empathy and determination can bring the afflicted out of this terrible crisis and ensure a standard of living that was rightfully meant for all human life. The divide has to end and the struggle between rich and the poor, anachronistic as its nature is, has to find a modern remedy and cease.